Research was conducted by The University of New Orleans Political Science Department
NEW ORLEANS – On December 1st, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (Foundation) held a webinar to announce the release of a new study, The State of Nonprofits in Southeast Louisiana 2021 – Adaptability And Racial Equity in Year One of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The study found that nonprofits successfully adapted to meet the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and that many even expanded their services to support the people of our region. The study also found that while a sizable percentage of nonprofits in Southeast Louisiana have Black and BIPOC executive directors, executive team members, board chairs, and board members, there is still a racial leadership gap within the region’s nonprofit sector, particularly in arts and culture organizations.
“This study allowed us to examine the health of the nonprofit sector, specifically looking at how nonprofits rose to the occasion and adapted to meet the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also looked at whether we are making progress in achieving greater racial equity in our region and where gaps might exist,” said Andy Kopplin, President and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “I remain inspired by the work of nonprofits who ran to the front lines to help our communities get through the pandemic and by the leadership so many in our sector are taking around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This study shows the resilience of our nonprofit sector, the progress we have made, and that there is still much to do,
Click here to watch the webinar.
This is the second study in two years where the Foundation commissioned research by the University of New Orleans Political Science Department (UNO) as a part of its comprehensive response effort to help nonprofits, philanthropy, and civic organizations better understand how nonprofits have adapted in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first that examines racial equity in our region’s nonprofit sector. The study was partially funded by the Greater New Orleans Funders Network.
“I’m grateful that at a time when our community is being confronted with so many critical issues, organizations like the Greater New Orleans Foundation are taking the time to find and fill the gaps,” said Judy Reese Morse, President and CEO, Urban League of Louisiana and a participant in the webinar. “This study allows us to look in the mirror and see the work we must continue to ensure that our nonprofits have the resources and racial equity approach they need to serve our region.”
“The study’s data shows that our region’s nonprofits creatively adapted and largely “held tight” through the first year of the COVID–19 pandemic,“ said Kellie Chavez Greene, Vice President of Programs, Greater New Orleans Foundation. The Paycheck Protection Program-forgivable loans had a lot to do with stabilizing the nonprofit sector, and we helped many organizations, especially small nonprofits and those led by leaders of color, access the PPP loans. At the same time there was a surge in funding to support pandemic relief, but now that type of funding is slowing down. At the Greater New Orleans Foundation, we aim to ensure that our nonprofits are ready and able to adjust. This will involve helping them plan for the future, build partnerships, and reimagine how they structure and operate their work.”
“The results of this study offer a great deal of hope, but also underscore a sense of urgency around the significant work left to do to enhance resilience and racial equity in our region’s nonprofits and in the communities they serve,” said Takema Robinson, Executive Director of the Greater New Orleans Funders Network (GNOFN) and CEO of Converge. This report further underscores that the contributions of leaders of color are vital to fueling long-term growth and economic sustainability for communities of color, which has been an oft-ignored social issue. GNOFN is grateful to our partners at GNOF and UNO for shedding light on our region’s nonprofit sector.”
“This pandemic has changed the way nonprofits operate and it’s great to see that reflected in this study,” said Elise Gallinot Goldman, Executive Director, KID smART and another panelist in the webinar. “As we work to return to normal, it is essential that the progress we’ve made continues and the gaps that remain continue to have a light shined on them.”
The State of Nonprofits in Southeast Louisiana 2021 – Adaptability And Racial Equity in Year One of the COVID-19 Pandemic was developed from an online survey of nonprofits in the region, and includes baseline nonprofit data, insight into the impact of COVID-19 and racial equity on organizations, as well as how nonprofits across the 13-parish region are responding and resourced amidst COVID-19.
- Our region’s nonprofits creatively adapted and largely “held tight” through the first year of the COVID–19 pandemic, sometimes by shifting their funding, services, and operations. Many nonprofits rose to meet the challenge of the pandemic and expand their support for our communities.
- Human services nonprofits saw the greatest increase in community demand for their services and were more likely than other types of nonprofits to maintain or even increase their budgets, while arts and culture nonprofits were most likely to lose program participants and funding.
- As with so many aspects of our lives, the pandemic shifted most operations to virtual formats. Nonprofit leaders and staff carried the heavy burden of managing these adaptations amidst the many other stressors created by the pandemic.
- As COVID–19 had a disproportionate impact on BIPOC and especially Black communities, nonprofits prioritizing services to these communities experienced increased demand and increased staff workload to meet it.
- Over half of nonprofits maintained or even increased their staff, but almost 40 percent of them—disproportionately arts and culture nonprofits—had to reduce staff to stay afloat. The majority of nonprofits prioritizing services to Black and BIPOC communities planned to increase staffing this year to meet the continued increase in demand for their services within these communities.
- While a sizable percentage of nonprofits have Black and BIPOC executive directors, executive teams, board chairs, and board members, the region’s nonprofit leaders across these positions are disproportionately white compared to the demographics of the region’s residents overall. This racial disparity in nonprofit leadership is especially pronounced within arts and culture nonprofits.
- As the public conversation around racial inequity and racism grew in 2020, there was an increase in funding for some Black–led and BIPOC–led nonprofits, especially in the form of new and increased private grants. However, this funding has not eliminated racial disparities in nonprofits’ financial resources, and it is unclear whether it will continue.
“The University of New Orleans was thrilled to partner with the Greater New Orleans Foundation again and expand our research on this important topic, “said Dr. Steven Mumford, Assistant Professor, University of New Orleans, who led this study and its predecessor on behalf of UNO’s Political Science Department. “The study paints a clear picture that while many nonprofits have worked tirelessly to adapt to the pandemic in order to serve their communities, there is still much more work to do to advance racial equity within our sector and region.”
Our Actions on Adaptability:
Since the start of COVID-19, the Foundation has awarded nearly $7 million in grants to individuals and nonprofits battling the pandemic and hosted 45 webinars/town halls with over 2,300 participants across the region to provide expert and technical support to those navigating the crisis.
The Foundation also hosted GiveNOLA Day on May 4, 2021 which raised a record $8.1 million to support over 900 nonprofit organizations, demonstrating strong community support for the nonprofit sector.
Our Actions on Racial Equity:
In 2020 The Foundation launched a historic $3 million Racial Equity Fund. The Greater Together Fund for Racial Equity invests strategically in the ecosystem of nonprofits who have had demonstrable success in moving the needle in seemingly intractable systems.
Additionally, the Foundation has taken explicit steps to help our region’s nonprofit boards of directors grow more diverse. Prior to the pandemic, our Nonprofit Leadership and Effectiveness department expanded our Board Governance Series curriculum to engage more deeply with issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). As with all DEI work, this is an ongoing effort, and cannot begin or end with a single program or workshop.
The Foundation’s Board Builders program offers support and training for BIPOC community members and others interested in board service. We then match them to nonprofits for board service. Our Emerging Leaders program supports leaders interested in building a career path in the nonprofit sector. While we have always emphasized the importance of DEI in this program, we are working with BIPOC leaders in middle management and senior level positions to strengthen the program’s focus on racial equity and reach more leaders of color.